BBC 2024-07-06 00:08:30


UK election: What’s happened and what comes next?

By Matt Murphy & Graeme BakerBBC News, in London & Washington DC

Sir Keir Starmer is the UK’s new prime minister, after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide general election victory.

The Conservative Party suffered a dramatic collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country. It lost 250 seats over the course of a devastating night.

Rishi Sunak – the outgoing PM – accepted responsibility for the result and apologised to defeated colleagues during a brief statement outside a rainy 10 Downing Street. He said he would resign as party leader in the coming weeks.

In his first speech as prime minister after greeting dozens of jubilant Labour supporters who had lined Downing Street, Sir Keir vowed to run a “government of service” and to kick start a period of “national renewal”.

“For too long we’ve turned a blind eye as millions slid into greater insecurity,” he said. “I want to say very clearly to those people. Not this time.”

“Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while, but have no doubt the work of change will begin immediately.”

The result marks a stunning reversal from the 2019 election when Labour, led by the veteran left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn, suffered its worst electoral defeat in almost a century.

On the other side, Robert Buckland, a former Conservative minister who lost his seat, described it as “electoral Armageddon” for the Tories.

It is the party’s worst result in almost 200 years, with an ideological battle over its future direction expected ahead.

It’s been a long night of results. Here’s what it all means.

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A huge Labour victory

Britain’s House of Commons has 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of their “seats” represents a constituency, or district.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 121 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as is the left-wing Green Party.

Labour’s surge was partly aided by the collapse of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party has been hit by a succession of controversies around its finances and fell to just nine seats overnight.

The expected 170-seat majority in the House of Commons for Labour is an enormous number but still short of the majority of 179 won by the party under Tony Blair in the 1997 election.

But for more perspective, the Conservatives’ win in the 2019 election under Boris Johnson – seen as a very strong performance – saw them get a majority of 80 seats.

A reminder: If a party holds a majority, it means it doesn’t need to rely on other parties to pass laws. The bigger the majority, the easier it is.

There were, however, a number of notable defeats for Labour to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza tickets – especially in areas with large Muslim populations.

Labour has faced growing pressure over its stance to the conflict. In February, the party called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire but critics said it was too slow to reach that position.

Centre-left parties in other Western countries were keeping a keen eye on the trend ahead of the poll, amid fear of a growing backlash from their own voters over their support for Israel.

Big names fall one by one (but some survive)

As constituencies have declared their results live on television – with all candidates lined up next to each other on stage – there were some major moments.

Perhaps the most notable was the defeat of Liz Truss. The former prime minister served just 49 days in Number 10 before being ousted by her party. She narrowly lost to Labour in the constituency of South West Norfolk, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Conservative business secretary and arch-Brexiteer, was another of the biggest names to suffer defeat. He lost his East Somerset and Hanham seat to Labour.

He told the BBC that he couldn’t “blame anybody other than myself” for the loss but he took a “small silver lining” from the fact that the Conservatives would be “at least the official opposition” – a reference to fears they wouldn’t even have that.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, looked rattled after losing his seat in southern England.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, who ran against Rishi Sunak for the party leadership before he became prime minister, lost her seat in Portsmouth.

As the night wore on, a succession of other Conservative cabinet ministers also lost their seats, including Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

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But Jeremy Hunt, who served as chancellor – the UK equivalent of a finance minister – held on to his seat but with a much-reduced majority.

Mr Sunak also won his seat in Yorkshire with a comfortable majority of about 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour lost two big names of their own. Jonathan Ashworth and Thangam Debbonaire were both expected to be a part of Keir Starmer’s incoming cabinet.

A new PM within a day

Things move pretty fast in British politics – there is very little time between an election result and the installation of the new prime minister.

By mid-morning moving vans had arrived to help Rishi Sunak out of 10 Downing Street. He was then whisked away to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to King Charles III.

Then, just 14 hours after the initial exit poll dropped, Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government.

Moments later – watched by the world’s media – he walked up Downing Street and addressed the nation for the first time as prime minster.

He has already started appointing a new cabinet.

Angela Rayner has been made deputy prime minister, while Rachel Reeves has become the first female chancellor.

Meanwhile David Lammy is the new foreign secretary with Yvette Cooper as home secretary.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished the new PM well.

“His successes will be all our successes, and I wish him and his family well,” Mr Sunak said. “Whatever our disagreements in this campaign, he is a decent public spirited man who I respect.”

So who is Keir Starmer?

He’s fairly new to politics, relatively speaking.

Sir Keir started his professional life as a barrister in the 1990s, and was appointed the director of public prosecutions, the most senior criminal prosecutor in England and Wales, in 2008.

He was first elected in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency in north London in 2015, and took over leadership of Labour after the party’s poor 2019 general election, pledging to start a “new era” after the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir was re-elected in the same constituency on Thursday, saying in his victory speech people were “ready for change” and promising an “end the politics of performance”.

“The change begins right here because this is your democracy, your community, your future,” he said. “You have voted. It’s now time for us to deliver.”

The Labour leader largely avoided making big pledges during the campaign.

But during his address outside Downing Street, Sir Keir said his government would strive to “rebuild” British public services such as the NHS, slash energy bills and secure the country’s border.

“You have given us a clear mandate, and we will use it to deliver change,” he vowed.

You can read Sir Keir’s full profile here.

Nigel Farage finally becomes an MP

This election’s insurgent party was Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party.

Nigel Farage, its leader, finally won a seat on his eighth attempt – but his party’s initial projection of 13 seats fizzled to four. That’s still better than UKIP and the Brexit Party ever did, and Mr Farage has been celebrating.

The party’s share of the vote looks to be about 14%.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists.

Mr Farage will be joined in the House of Commons by former Conservative party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, Reform founder Richard Tice and Rupert Lowe.

From their new perch in parliament, the party could seek to cause trouble for the Conservatives and pick off more voters from the party’s remaining base.

Keir Starmer: From indie kid to prime minister

By Nick Eardley@nickeardleybbcPolitical correspondent

Three years ago Sir Keir Starmer seriously considered quitting as Labour leader.

It was 2021 and his party had just lost the Hartlepool by-election to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

It was the first time Labour had ever lost the seat. Three short years feel like a political lifetime ago now.

Sir Keir has become only the fifth person in British history to take Labour from opposition to power.

His party has gone from a historic thumping at the general election in 2019 – to victory in 2024.

The Hartlepool result though, is a reminder that Sir Keir’s journey to Downing Street was far from straightforward. In fact, for a long time his life and career were on a very different path.

Keir Starmer, one of four children, was brought up in the town of Oxted on the Kent-Surrey border.

He was raised by his toolmaker father and nurse mother, who suffered from a debilitating form of arthritis known as Still’s disease.

Sir Keir has spoken about the challenges of growing up at a time of high inflation in the 1970s.

“If you’re working class, you’re scared of debt,” he said during the election campaign.

“My mum and dad were scared of debt, so they would choose the bill that they wouldn’t pay.” The choice was the phone bill.

Sir Keir had a lot going on in his younger years.

He was obsessed with football (on the centre-left of midfield, of course). He was a talented musician and learnt violin with Norman Cook, who went on to become chart-topping DJ Fatboy Slim.

Sir Keir also had a rebellious streak. He and his friends were once caught by police illegally selling ice-cream on a French beach to raise cash.

But what about politics? There were always clues, including his name which was given to him as a tribute to the first leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie.

Sir Keir dabbled in left-wing politics over the course of his pre-parliamentary life.

That started at school, when he joined the Young Socialists, Labour’s youth movement.

After school, Sir Keir became the first person in his family to go to university, studying law at Leeds University and later at Oxford.

At Leeds, he was influenced by the indie music of the 1980s, from The Smiths and The Wedding Present to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera.

His biographer, Tom Baldwin, notes his favourite drink as a student was a mix of beer and cider – or Snakebite – and he had a taste for curry and chips.

For a while after graduating, Sir Keir lived above a brothel in north London.

More importantly, he was building a reputation as a workaholic that would see him go on to become a successful and prominent human rights lawyer.

At the same time, Sir Keir continued his left-wing activism, as a prominent contributor to the magazine Socialist Lawyer.

But politics was a side interest and, for much of the next 20 years, his legal career was his focus.

In 2008, he became Director of Public Prosecutions, the chief prosecutor for England and Wales.

Sir Keir likes to talk about this period in life as an example of his dedication to public service, and often recalls his role in prosecuting terrorist gangs. But what else?

Under the 2010-15 coalition government, he had to implement significant cuts, with the Crown Prosecution Service’s budget reduced by more than a quarter.

He also oversaw high-profile decisions including the prosecution of MPs over their parliamentary expenses following the 2009 scandal and prosecuting the then Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne for asking his wife to take speeding points for him.

Sir Keir’s legal work was rewarded with a knighthood in 2014. But how successful was his leadership?

Towards the end of his tenure, Sir Keir admitted in a BBC interview that vulnerable victims were still being let down by the justice system.

A late career change

It wasn’t until the age of 52 that the career change came.

Sir Keir was selected for a safe Labour seat in north London, winning comfortably. He and his predecessor Rishi Sunak became MPs on the same day.

But it wasn’t a happy time for the Labour Party.

The Conservatives had just won the general election and a bitter factional battle loomed after Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

Much has been said and written about Sir Keir’s journey from backbencher to the Labour leadership – and now to Downing Street. But some things are worth highlighting.

When he became leader, Jeremy Corbyn made Sir Keir shadow immigration minister but it didn’t last long.

He resigned after less than a year, one of dozens of frontbenchers who quit after the Brexit referendum in an attempt to force Mr Corbyn out.

When that failed, and Mr Corbyn saw off a leadership challenge, Sir Keir returned to the fold as shadow Brexit secretary.

Labour in the doldrums

Sir Keir’s position on Mr Corbyn has evolved over time.

In 2019, he was asked on BBC Breakfast to repeat the sentence “Jeremy Corbyn would make a great prime minister”. He did.

A few months later, he would tell the BBC he was “100%” behind Mr Corbyn and working with him to win a general election.

While others refused to serve under Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir stayed in the tent and helped persuade the leader to back a second Brexit referendum at the 2019 election.

That election was a disaster for Labour. Mr Corbyn quit and Sir Keir won the race to replace him.

But when he took over, a lot of people thought Boris Johnson was destined to govern for some time.

Many saw Sir Keir as a leader who could help rebuild – but few thought he was the man who would take them back to power.

When did that change? The polls give us a good indication.

Sir Keir’s Labour trailed Mr Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls for much of 2020 and 2021 when the Hartlepool by-election was held.

But that started to change after the first reports of Downing Street parties during the pandemic, when strict restrictions were in place around social gatherings.

There is a clear point in the polls where Labour overtakes the Conservatives in November 2021.

Its lead increased significantly after the Liz Truss mini budget and has been consistent and significant ever since.

A ‘ruthless’ leader

Sir Keir’s allies argue that wouldn’t have happened without big changes in the Labour Party. Sir Keir has sometimes been ruthless.

Jeremy Corbyn was thrown out of the parliamentary party and ultimately barred from standing as a Labour candidate.

Economic policy was tightened; meaning policies were junked if they weren’t seen as affordable.

Sir Keir embraced British patriotism, using the union jack as a backdrop for speeches and getting his conference to sing God Save the King.

All of that has contributed to Sir Keir’s message of change. He spent the campaign arguing he had changed Labour and could change the country too.

The election result will also mean change for the Starmer family.

Sir Keir, now 61, married his wife Victoria in 2007. Her intention is to keep working for the NHS in occupational health as he serves as prime minister.

Lady Starmer has been seen at some high-profile events like conference speeches, a rally last week – and at a Taylor Swift gig. But she is unlikely to play as prominent a role in public life as some partners have in the past.

Sir Keir though has been candid about the impact high office could have, particularly on his teenage son and daughter.

He told the BBC in 2021: “I am worried about my children. That is probably the single thing that does keep me awake – as to how we will protect them through this.”

It’s a challenge the Starmers will now face as they move into Downing Street at the end of a testing, far from straightforward, journey.

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The big winners and losers on election night

By Sean SeddonBBC News

On the face of it, the final result is straightforward: Sir Keir Starmer won, Rishi Sunak lost.

However, beneath the final vote count are other the stories which shaped the 2024 general election – from ousted ministers to insurgent smaller parties.

Here are the big winners and losers from a night that upended Westminster.

Liz Truss provides ‘Portillo moment’

Liz Truss became prime minister 668 days ago. Then, within seven weeks, her own MPs had removed her.

On Friday morning, her constituents in South West Norfolk did the same, a fate not suffered by a former prime minister since 1935.

Ms Truss saw her majority of around 23,000 votes vanish and she was defeated by Labour. There were only 630 votes in it.

Penny Mordaunt’s leadership ambitions upended

Penny Mordaunt – the leader of the House of Commons and once a candidate to be prime minister – saw her majority of more than 15,000 in Portsmouth North overturned by Labour.

She had hoped her personal profile – generated in part by her ceremonial sword-wielding role during the Coronation of King Charles III – would mean her beating the national swing against her party, but Labour won narrowly.

It was widely expected she would play a big role in a future Tory leadership contest but she will now no longer be in the Commons.

Carla Denyer wins as Green Party pushes on

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer unseated Labour shadow cabinet member Thangham Debbonaire in Bristol Central.

Her party’s other leader Adrian Ramsey was also elected in the rural Waveney Valley seat

The Greens won four seats overall, their best ever performance at a general election, and was on course to win around two million votes.

Grant Shapps gone amid cabinet cull

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps held government posts for the majority of the Conservatives’ 14 years in power.

In the early hours of Friday, he saw a majority of more than 10,000 votes vanish and Labour take his Welwyn Hatfield seat, becoming the most senior cabinet minister to lose.

Other cabinet ministers removed from the Commons include: Veterans’ Minister Johnny Mercer, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Mr Sunak’s Chief Whip Simon Hart.

Nigel Farage finally gets to Westminster

It was eighth time lucky for Nigel Farage, who was elected to the Commons for the first time, with a majority of more than 8,000 in Clacton.

His comeback to the frontline of politics transformed this election and saw Reform UK put on course to be the third-largest party in the country by number of votes, with Mr Farage vowing to “stun” the electorate with Reform’s next moves.

The surge in his party’s fortunes since he joined the fray also saw ex-Tory MP Lee Anderson and Reform co-founder Richard Tice elected to the Commons.

Jacob Rees-Mogg among backbench exits

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg is perhaps the most recognisable face among influential Tory backbenchers to lose their seat.

The staunch Brexiteer went into the election with a majority of more than 16,000 votes in his North East Somerset and Hanham seat.

Before his result was announced, he told the BBC his party had taken its “core vote for granted”.

Jeremy Corbyn defies Labour on home turf

On a night when Sir Keir hoped to confirm a definitive break with the past for Labour, his predecessor had other ideas.

Jeremy Corbyn ran as an independent in Islington North – the constituency he has represented since 1983 – after being thrown out of Labour over his response to antisemitism.

Labour ran a candidate against him but Mr Corbyn’s local popularity meant he won in the north London seat by more than 7,000 votes.

Suella Braverman among high-profile survivors

One of the big questions arising from the election result is what type of Conservative Party emerges from the worst result in its modern history.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman is expected to be one of those seeking to shape where the party goes next, along with the likes of James Cleverly and Kemi Badenoch.

Speaking after her result was confirmed, she said: “I’m sorry that my party didn’t listen to you. The Conservative Party has let you down.”

Jonathan Ashworth loses amid Gaza protest votes

Jonathan Ashworth was almost certain to be a leading figure in the new Labour government.

Instead, the former shadow paymaster general and a key Starmer lieutenant lost his Leicester South constituency to independent candidate Shockat Adam.

The seat has a significant Muslim population and a large part of Mr Adam’s campaign focused on the situation in Gaza. Other Labour candidates saw their vote squeezed in areas with similar demographics.

Michelle O’Neill celebrates another Sinn Féin win

Sinn Féin won more constituencies than any other party in Northern Ireland, in an election which saw the Democratic Unionist Party suffer.

It means the republican party – which does not take its seats in the Commons – has been the largest party in both the most recent Westminster and Stormont elections.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill was seen celebrating alongside the party’s president Mary Lou McDonald as the final tallies were read out.

Ed Davey’s stunt strategy pays off

Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey’s decision to bungee jump, log flume and paddle board his way through the campaign might have split opinion, but it has paid dividends.

The party pulled off its target of becoming the third largest party in the Commons, with around 3.5m votes across the country.

Its gains predominantly came in the south east of England, where it targeted Conservative candidates.

Douglas Alexander leads Labour onslaught on SNP

Former Labour minister Douglas Alexander is perhaps the most recognisable face among the candidates who demolished the SNP’s near-monopoly in Scotland.

He was elected back to the Commons after winning nearly 50% of the vote in Lothian East.

The SNP has lost around 40 of the seats it held before the election, prompting its leader John Swinney to say the party had “failed to convince” the people of Scotland on independence.

Quirks and characters bring colour to proceedings

From Count Binface at Rishi Sunak’s count, to the soon-to-be Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer shaking hands with a life-sized Elmo – all via a Northumberland returning officer’s striking feathered traditional hat – there was plenty of colour on election night.

As ever, counts were full of novelty candidates and strange moments, all quirks of the UK’s democratic tradition.

Amid the tension and acute seriousness of general elections, they offer a splash of light relief to perk up people staying awake for results.

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Moving into Downing Street: life behind the iconic black door

By Rosemary McCabeBBC Journalist

Out with the old, in with the new.

Nothing represents the rapid, ruthless business of politics like removal vans at Downing Street.

Moving a new prime minister – staff, family, pets and paraphernalia – into 10 Downing Street is a complex feat. Here’s how it happens.

Sunaks out, Starmers in

The first thing to know: it happens in a day.

Former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vacated 10 Downing Street on Friday after Labour won a landslide victory in the general election.

Shortly after, new PM Sir Keir Starmer and wife Victoria Starmer arrived at No 10.

“The work of change begins immediately,” Mr Starmer said outside the iconic black door, before walking into his new office and home.

The couple’s children, unlike some of former prime ministers, did not feature in the photograph on the Downing Street steps.

That’s because the Starmers have chosen to keep their 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter out of the public eye.

Stepping inside

A first stumbling block for a new PM can be getting through the front door.

Rather than have the PM fumble for their keys, Downing Street security staff open the door as soon as the prime minister turns to face it.

That’s not always obvious, as one aide to former Labour PM Tony Blair recalled in 2021.

“Tony finished his speech. He’s doing his wave, and the family and Cherie is there and it’s all lovely,” said Kate Garvey, recalling the moment in 1997 when Mr Blair took office.

“But I could see he had a hesitation.

“And I knew it, the door! How does the door open?”

With an eye on the CCTV monitor and a hand on the door, the in-house staff spring into action when they get their cue, a detail that might be easy to forget in the whirlwind of an election victory.

Once inside, the prime minister is greeted by Downing Street staff. These include civil servants, politically appointed special advisers, and permanent staff including chefs and security guards.

Staff usually line the corridors and applaud the new leader on their first day.

Staying at No 10 or No 11?

The prime minister taking up residence at No 10 is a historic moment for a new government – but the leader may end up living in the house next door.

Starting with the Blair family in 1997, prime ministers including Boris Johnson and David Cameron have often chosen to live in the more spacious four-bedroomed flat at No 11.

Of course a permanent resident, unfussed by the rise and fall of governments, is Larry the cat who was adopted and brought to Downing Street in 2011 for his mousing skills.

Boxes, boxes, boxes

“It’s their home and it’s quite a big home,” said Stephen Morris, managing director of the removal firm which packed the possessions of the Blairs into 2,000 boxes when they left Downing Street in 2007.

“You don’t let people know what it is you’re moving,” Morris said. “Because you hear and see things that a newspaper would like!”

Politics can move fast, and so must removals.

Morris recalls receiving a phone call in 2010 the evening Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigned, asking his team to be ready to start moving the next day.

Curtains, carpets, coats of paint

Prime ministers can give Downing Street a fresh lick of paint, making use of an annual public grant of £30,000 to carry out renovations.

But Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were criticised when their extensive revamp of the flat above No 11 cost more than £200,000.

Mr Johnson and his wife wanted to transform the flat from previous Prime Minister Theresa May’s “John Lewis furniture nightmare” into a “high society haven”, according to the society magazine Tatler.

The work was initially paid for by the Cabinet Office, but £52,000 was given to the Conservative Party by Tory donor Lord Brownlow to cover the bills.

The Electoral Commission fined the Tory party and found it had failed to accurately declare all of Lord Brownlow’s donations towards the renovation.

A political powerhouse and family home

Once he’s moved in, Downing Street will be where Sir Keir conducts his most important duties, such as holding cabinet meetings and welcoming foreign leaders. But it’s also a family home, hosting birthday parties and space for relaxation.

It’s a “strange dynamic”, said Jack Brown, a former researcher in residence at No 10.

“It’s both a place of work and family… and it’s important to the prime minister’s premiership that they and their family feel comfortable there.”

The family of Harold Macmillan, Conservative prime minister from 1957 to 1963, reportedly enjoyed their time in Downing Street, although there were strict rules about children riding bikes through the corridor during cabinet meetings.

But former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his family found “disturbances by officials” difficult. Mary Wilson installed a doorbell in her second-floor rooms to stop civil servants from intruding.

Friday nights in the Starmer household are family-first.

“We’ve had a strategy in place – and we’ll try to keep to it – which is to carve out really protected time for the kids,” Sir Keir told Virgin Radio. “So on a Friday – I’ve been doing this for years – I will not do a work-related thing after six o’clock, pretty well come-what-may.”

What these Friday nights entail in the new home will be one of the many choices facing the Starmer household.

Over the next few days, they’ll have a lots of boxes to unpack. And one more critical, if quieter, task for the new prime minister: turning the heart of political power into a family home.

Biden faces donor pressure as he digs in on re-election bid

By Nadine YousifBBC News

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors as he faces a critical few days in his campaign for re-election.

A number of donors are publicly warning they will withhold funds unless Mr Biden is replaced as the party’s candidate following his disastrous debate performance last week.

Friday is a big day for the president as he seeks to shore up his candidacy with a rare primetime TV interview and a rally in Wisconsin.

Pressure on Mr Biden, 81, to step aside has grown following a debate marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought.

While he admitted that he “screwed up” that night, he has vowed to stay on as his party’s standard-bearer taking on Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

Scrutiny on his public appearances has markedly increased since the debate.

In a White House speech to military families on Thursday to mark 4 July Independence Day, he stumbled over his words when referring to Trump as “one of our colleagues, the former president”.

And in an interview with WURD radio in Philadelphia, he lost his thread and appeared to say he was proud to be the first black woman to serve with a black president.

Donors have been weighing their options. Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune, told business news channel CNBC that she did not believe Mr Biden could win against Trump.

She said her intent to pull support was rooted in “realism, not disrespect”.

“Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high.”

The consequences of defeat in November “will be genuinely dire”, she added.

With her warning, she joined a handful of other wealthy donors.

Philanthropist Gideon Stein told the New York Times that his family was withholding $3.5m (£2.8m) to non-profit and political organisations active in the presidential race unless Mr Biden steps aside.

Hollywood producer Damon Lindelof, who has donated more than $100,000 to Democrats this election cycle, wrote a public essay in Deadline urging other donors to withhold their funds until there is a change.

The brother of Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, told a conference in Colorado that withholding funding was the key to ensuring Mr Biden’s exit from the race, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

“The lifeblood to a campaign is money, and maybe the only way . . . is if the money starts drying up,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Ramesh Kapur, a Massachusetts-based Indian-American industrialist, has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

“I think it’s time for him to pass the torch,” Mr Kapur told the BBC this week. “I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

There are some who are worried there’s not enough time left for a new candidate to join the race, and they have decided to back Biden if he stays on.

A mega-donor the BBC spoke to this week, who declined to be named, said he planned to go ahead with a fundraiser for the president scheduled for later this month at his Virginia home.

The Biden campaign has said it raised $38m from debate day through to the weekend, mainly through small donations – and a total of $127m in June alone.

They have conceded he had a difficult debate but have said he is ready to show the public he has the stamina for the campaign.

On Friday morning they announced a new “aggressive travel schedule” in which he and his wife, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, would blitz every battleground state.

He will start with a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, campaigning with Governor Tony Evers.

After that rally he is scheduled to sit down with ABC – the first television interview after the debate – in a bid to quell concerns about his age and mental faculties.

But the president is facing a series of negative polls which suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened in the wake of the Atlanta debate.

A New York Times poll published on Wednesday suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested a slight shift towards Trump, who had a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

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Fifty violent attacks shock France ahead of crunch vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

More than 50 candidates and activists in France have come under physical attack in the run-up to Sunday’s tense final round of parliamentary elections, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said.

He revealed the figure after government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist were brutally assaulted as they put up election posters in Meudon, south-west of Paris.

The motive for the attack is not clear, but Ms Thevenot returned to Meudon on Thursday with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who condemned what he called “attacks of intolerable cowardice”.

The spate of assaults across France reflects the febrile mood on the final day of campaigning in an election that the far-right National Rally (RN) is poised to win.

Although RN is well ahead in the polls, 217 candidates have dropped out from local run-off races so another candidate has a better chance of stopping them winning an outright majority in the National Assembly.

Mr Darmanin told news channel BFMTV the attacks were taking place in a climate in which France was “on edge” and more than 30 people had been arrested.

He said the attackers were either people who had “spontaneously become angry” or they were the “ultra-left, ultra-right or other political groups”.

Images filmed from a block of flats showed the youths swarming around the candidate, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist for President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance.

Ms Thevenot told Le Parisien website that when she and her colleagues objected to the youths defacing party posters “they immediately attacked one of my activists, injuring Virginie”. Ms Lanlo suffered an arm injury, while the activist was punched and hit with a scooter, ending up with a broken jaw. The car windscreen was also smashed by the scooter.

Three teenagers and a man aged 20 were arrested by police and the incident was quickly condemned across the political spectrum.

Mr Attal called on people to “reject the climate of violence and hatred that’s taking hold”, while RN leader Jordan Bardella said one of his “big commitments as prime minister” would be to “combat record insecurity and repeat offending”.

Mr Darmanin has announced that 30,000 police will be deployed across France for Sunday’s vote in an attempt to prevent “the ultra-left or ultra-right” from stirring up trouble.

The BBC spoke to voters in his constituency in northern France on Thursday who said they feared youths would go on the rampage whoever won, to express their anger at the political system.

Law and order is one of RN’s big priorities, alongside immigration and tax cuts to target the cost-of-living crisis.

RN candidates have also come under attack. Marie Dauchy described being “violently assaulted” as she campaigned at a market in La Rochette near Grenoble in the south-east.

A conservative candidate allied with RN, Nicolas Conquer, complained that he and a female colleague had been pelted with eggs. And last month another RN candidate was treated in hospital after he was set upon while handing out pamphlets.

Having won 33.2% of the vote in the first round of the snap election, called out of the blue by President Macron, Mr Bardella’s party is now aiming to win an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.

But his political opponents have agreed to do all they can to block the far right from winning enough seats to form a government.

Seventy-six seats were won outright in the first round by candidates who won more than half the local vote in their constituency, including 39 RN candidates and their allies.

The other 501 seats will be settled in run-off votes, and 217 third-placed candidates have pulled out of the race to hand a rival a better chance of defeating RN. Of those 217 withdrawals, 130 candidates came from the left-wing New Popular Front and 81 from the Macron alliance.

Marine Le Pen has complained bitterly about the operation to secure “mass withdrawals”, and blamed those who sought to “stay in power against the will of the people”.

However, she said she thought there was still a chance of winning an absolute majority, if the electorate turned out in big numbers.

The latest Ifop poll suggests RN will win 210-240 seats, short of the 289 it needs to form a government. That is down on the 240-270 range of seats that it was estimated to win after the first round.

Nevertheless there is fear among some of France’s minorities of what RN might do if it gets into power.

It aims to give French citizens “national preference” over immigrants for jobs and housing and to abolish the right to automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents, if those children have spent five years in France from the age of 11 to 18.

Dual citizens would also be barred from dozens of sensitive jobs.

One Muslim woman in a district that voted 54% for RN last Sunday told the BBC that RN was gaining ground with every election that took place.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating an extremist “patriotic network” website that published a list of almost 100 lawyers “for eliminating”, after they signed an open letter against National Rally.

On the eve of France’s quarter-final tie against Portugal in the European Championships in Germany, national football captain Kylian Mbappé called on voters to “make the right choice”.

After Sunday’s “catastrophic” first-round results, he said “we can’t put the country into the hands of those people”, without specifying who they were.

Andrew Tate free to leave Romania but not the EU

By Ruth ComerfordBBC News

Controversial influencer Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan are free to leave Romania but not the EU, a Bucharest court has ruled.

They had previously been banned from leaving the country where they are awaiting trial, indicted on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. They deny all allegations against them.

The decision to allow freedom of movement in the EU is not final and can be appealed.

The brothers said the move represented a “significant victory and major step forward” in their ongoing case.

The brothers’ lawyer, Eugene Vidineac, called the ruling a “reflection of the exemplary behaviour and assistance of my clients.

“Andrew and Tristan are still determined to clear their name and reputation; however, they are grateful to the courts for placing this trust in them.”

Posting on X, a platform from which he was previously banned, Andrew Tate said: “The sham case is falling apart.”

The Tate brothers, former kickboxers who are dual UK-US nationals, are accused of exploiting women via an adult content business, which prosecutors allege operated as a criminal group.

Two female Romanian associates were also named alongside the brothers in an indictment published in June last year, and seven alleged victims were identified.

Andrew Tate is a self-described misogynist and was previously banned from social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views.

He has repeatedly claimed Romanian prosecutors have no evidence against him and there is a conspiracy to silence him.

The internet personalities are also wanted in the UK over sexual offences allegedly committed there.

The brothers have had restrictions on their movement for the past two years.

They were held in police custody during the criminal investigation from late December 2022 until April 2023, before being placed under house arrest until August, when courts put them under judicial control.

Mexico’s coast battered by Hurricane Beryl

By Ian AikmanBBC News
Hurricane Beryl due to strengthen again after making landfall in Yucatan Peninsula

A hurricane which has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean has hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Hurricane Beryl, classed as category two, lashed the region’s coastline on Friday morning, endangering two million people and the tourist hotspots of Cancún and Tulum.

Beaches are closed and thousands of troops have been deployed to help as the storm hits the country’s southeast shoreline.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned people in the area to shelter from the “life-threatening conditions” the hurricane will bring over the course of the day.

Across the Caribbean, at least 10 people are known to have died and more are missing, roofs have been torn from buildings, and thousands of homes were left without power.

Mexican authorities have taken measures to prepare the coastline for the hurricane.

Schools have been closed, hotel windows have been boarded up, and emergency shelters have been set up in areas facing the brunt of the impact.

People in Cancún have rushed to supermarkets to stock up, with some encountering empty shelves.

More than 8,000 troops from the army, air force and national guard have been deployed in the Yucatán Peninsula to provide support.

Some were seen patrolling the beaches on Thursday, urging people to leave.

Mara Lazema, the governor of Quintana Roo state on the eastern part of the peninsula urged residents to “please stay home” in a video released overnight.

Hundreds of tourists have been evacuated from hotels across the coastline, and more than 3,000 people have fled from Holbox Island off the coast, according to local authorities.

More than 300 flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Stranded US tourist Anita Luis told Reuters news agency on Thursday: “We just want to go back home safely and pray the same for everybody else.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Rebollar, a Mexican tourist who travelled to Tulum, told AFP news agency: “They cancelled our flight and we had to pay for two extra nights.”

Hurricanes frequently occur near the peninsula, with the official storm season running from June to late November.

King Charles III said he had been “profoundly saddened” by the destruction the hurricane had caused in the Caribbean, impacting several Commonwealth islands.

The Royal Navy has sent an aid ship to the Cayman Islands.

Hurricane Beryl battered Jamaica on Wednesday after causing huge devastation across other Caribbean nations.

The Red Cross said its teams had witnessed the life-threatening impact of Beryl’s rains first-hand.

“The severity of the damages in the aftermath of the hurricane is tangible and heartbreaking,” Rhea Pierre, a Red Cross disaster manager in the Caribbean, told reporters via video link from Trinidad and Tobago.

As well as leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, Hurricane Beryl has also broken records.

Though was classed as a category two hurricane on Friday, it has previously been classed higher.

It is the first hurricane to reach the category four level in June since NHC records began and the earliest to hit category five – the highest category – in July.

Hurricane Beryl’s record-breaking nature has put the role of climate change in the spotlight.

The causes of individual storms are complex, making it difficult to fully attribute specific cases to climate change.

But exceptionally high sea surface temperatures are seen as a key reason why Hurricane Beryl has been so powerful.

Where will Hurricane Beryl go next?

Beryl will weaken rapidly over land and is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm.

The storm will then travel over the Gulf of Mexico, moving towards north-eastern Mexico and southern Texas by the end of the weekend.

By the time it makes landfall again on Sunday evening, the storm is expected to have strengthened back to a hurricane.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told people near the state’s Gulf coast to “have an emergency plan to take care of yourself and your loved ones”.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that the North Atlantic could get as many as seven major hurricanes this year – up from an average of three in a season.

Samsung expects profits to jump by more than 1,400%

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Samsung Electronics expects its profits for the three months to June 2024 to jump 15-fold compared to the same period last year.

An artificial intelligence (AI) boom has lifted the prices of advanced chips, driving up the firm’s forecast for the second quarter.

The South Korean tech giant is the world’s largest maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions.

The announcement pushed Samsung shares up more than 2% during early trading hours in Seoul.

The firm also reported a more than 10-fold jump in its profits for the first three months of this year.

In this quarter, it said it is expecting its profit to rise to 10.4tn won ($7.54bn; £5.9bn), from 670bn won last year.

That surpasses analysts’ forecasts of 8.8tn won, according to LSEG SmartEstimate.

“Right now we are seeing skyrocketing demand for AI chips in data centers and smartphones,” said Marc Einstein, chief analyst at Tokyo-based research and advisory firm ITR Corporation.

Optimism about AI is one reason for the broader market rally over the last year, which pushed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq in the United States to new records on Wednesday.

The market value of chip-making giant Nvidia surged past $3tn last month, briefly holding the top spot as the world’s most valuable company.

“The AI boom which massively boosted Nvidia is also boosting Samsung’s earnings and indeed those of the entire sector,” Mr Einstein added.

Samsung Electronics is the flagship unit of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group.

Next week, the tech company faces a possible three-day strike, which is expected to start on Monday. A union of workers is demanding a more transparent system for bonuses and time off.

Hungary’s PM meets Putin in Moscow for talks on Ukraine

By Jaroslav Lukiv and Nick ThorpeBBC News, London and Hungary

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for talks on the war in Ukraine.

The visit has been criticised by EU leaders, who have emphasised that Mr Orban is not acting on behalf of the bloc.

Mr Orban is the EU’s only head of national government to have kept close ties to the Kremlin following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He described the trip as a “peace mission” in a post on X. It comes days after he visited Kyiv, where he spent three hours with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday.

Both legs of the trip were carefully choreographed to emphasise Mr Orban as a global statesman, rather than an outsider.

Hungary has just taken over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and will hold it to the end of the year.

Viktor Orban, speaking in Moscow, said: “Hungary will slowly become the last European country that can talk to everyone.”

The Kremlin said on Friday that talks between the two leaders would last at least two or three hours, but could go on “as long as needed”.

Officials are accompanying them, but there is a possibility they could speak one to one.

In footage of the meeting, Mr Putin said Mr Orban was visiting “not just as a long-time partner” but as a European Union representative.

However, European leaders openly condemned the Moscow trip and emphasised he was not representing the EU.

“The EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU,” Charles Michel, President of the European Council, wrote on X.

“The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

“Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

Russia’s president told Mr Orban he would be happy to discuss “the nuances” of his recent Ukraine ceasefire plan, in which he offered talks if Ukraine pulled out of four regions Russia claims to have annexed – an area which includes territory Russia does not currently occupy.

Volodymyr Zelensky has long said Ukraine will not negotiate with Moscow until Russian forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

The Kremlin leader voiced a number of tough pre-conditions for negotiations, but Kyiv and its Western allies say these would be tantamount to Ukraine’s capitulation.

Earlier this week, Mr Orban visited Kyiv, saying “a quick ceasefire could be used to speed up peace negotiations”.

President Zelensky – who has had frosty relations with Mr Orban – did not publicly respond to the proposal.

Ahead of Ukraine’s offensive last summer, Mr Orban warned that Ukraine cannot win on the battlefield.

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the Hungarian prime minister has underlined that Russia’s advantage in resources and men makes Putin’s country unbeatable.

However, many Ukrainians believe any ceasefire would simply cement Russia’s hold over territory it has seized from Ukraine and, if negotiations were to take place, they would prefer them to be conducted from a position of strength rather than on the back foot.

Mr Orban has been a vocal critic of Western support for Ukraine. He previously slowed agreement on a €50bn ($54bn; £42bn) EU aid package designed to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

Tuesday’s visit to Kyiv was his first in 12 years, while he met Mr Putin repeatedly during that time.

During Mr Orban’s joint appearance with Mr Zelensky, the body language between them was not warm, and neither took questions from the media after they gave their statements.

But for the next six months Mr Orban’s position as head of the Council of the European Union means he has an influential role as a figurehead for Europe.

His visit to Kyiv came on his second day in that role, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

Shania Twain surprises superfan, 81, at show

Ken Northall has spent the last 25 years travelling the world to see Twain play live

An 81-year-old Shania Twain superfan has told his hero that meeting her was a “dream” after she called him up on stage at a show in his hometown.

The Canadian superstar, who recently lit up Glastonbury’s legends slot with a set of her greatest hits, asked Ken Northall to join her during her show at Lytham Festival in Lancashire on Thursday night.

She even changed the lyrics to That Don’t Impress Me Much in honour of him, swapping film star Brad Pitt’s name for Ken’s.

Thanking her as he left the stage, he told her it had been “a dream”.

Nearly 30,000 evacuated from California wildfires

By Mallory MoenchBBC News
Blazing infernos force evacuations in northern California

Tens of thousands of people in northern California have been told to leave their homes as wildfires grow across the state during a heatwave.

About 28,000 people were under evacuation warnings or orders on Thursday after the Thompson Fire broke out two days earlier, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

Those evacuation orders and warnings were lifted around midnight local time (08:00 BST) on Friday but, hours earlier, new orders were put in place elsewhere.

Dangerously hot weather is expected to continue with temperatures of 118F (47C) forecast in some areas, feeding the state’s 3,000-plus burning wildfires.

The heatwave – expected to last until early next week – has cast uncertainty on efforts to contain multiple wildfires.

No one has died, while 74 structures across the state have been destroyed or damaged from fires this season.

The Thompson Fire, which began on Tuesday, was finally contained by Friday morning, a welcomed sign of progress for the crew of nearly 2,000 responders that battled the flames.

At least four people were injured, according to CalFire, although the extent of their injuries is unknown.

Roughly 241 miles (387km) south of the Thompson Fire, the French Fire emerged suddenly on Thursday evening, forcing evacuations and road closures in Mariposa County.

Local news reported deputies going door-to-door to notify residents of evacuation orders, as patients at a local hospital were told to shelter in place.

The French Fire continued to spread Friday, with the latest update showing 5% containment and more than 800 acres burned.

The city of Oroville, near where the Thompson fire started, cancelled its 4 July Independence Day fireworks over the risk of starting another blaze.

“The last thing we need is somebody who’s purchased fireworks from a local fire stand going out and doing something stupid,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. “Don’t be an idiot, cause a fire and create more problems for us.”

Mr Honea said the area had seen four fires within the last couple of weeks and cautioned that danger was far from over.

“This is a bad fire season,” he added.

Fire season started recently in California and usually runs until October. The size and intensity of fires in the state have grown in recent years.

The amount of burned areas in the summer in northern and central California increased five times from 1996 to 2021 compared to the 24 year period before, which scientists attributed to human-caused climate change.

  • How climate change worsens heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods

This week, the National Weather Service issued excessive heat and red flag warnings – indicating hot, dry and windy weather – across the state. The agency said “dangerous” temperatures posed a major to extreme risk of heat stress or illnesses.

According to CalFire, around two dozen fires have burned more than 10 acres sparked across the state since the last week of June. The largest one, at nearly 14,000 acres, was in Fresno County.

California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Butte County to provide resources.

The Thompson fire started in Oroville, about 70 miles north of the state capital Sacramento, on Tuesday. The city is around 20 miles from Paradise, which was devastated in 2018 by the Camp Fire that killed 85 people. Fires hit the region again in the years following.

CalFire spokesman Robert Foxworthy told the BBC that the fire was no longer growing amid lighter wind speeds, but the heat – which was predicted to hit 110F (43C) on Thursday – was the “biggest factor” impacting firefighters.

Two days after the fire broke out, many residents remained unable to return home.

Brittanie Hardie, a Louisiana native and recent California transplant, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had not been at home when her girlfriend evacuated their flat, and had nothing but the clothes she was wearing.

“I knew wildfires were bad in California, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Hardie told the newspaper.

Oroville City Council member Shawn Webber posted a video on Facebook on Wednesday showing hillsides smoking on both sides of a road, but thanked firefighters for preventing further destruction.

California’s state parks system said agencies responding to the fire “also have employees with families displaced by these evacuations who are tirelessly assisting the community of Lake Oroville”.

Bodies of 89 migrants retrieved from Atlantic

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Coastguards in Mauritania have recovered 89 bodies of migrants from a boat that capsized in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday.

Nine people – including a five-year-old girl – were rescued, but dozens more are missing.

Survivors say the vessel – a traditional fishing boat – set sail last week from the Senegalese-Gambian border area with 170 people on board. It capsized off Mauritania’s south-western coast.

Mauritania is a key transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe from West Africa, with thousands of boats departing from the country last year.

The most common destination on the perilous route is Spain’s Canary Islands.

The Spanish government says nearly 40,000 people arrived there last year – double the number from the previous year.

Desperate to get to Europe, migrants often travel in overloaded boats.

More than 5,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of 2024, the Ca-minando Fronteras charity estimates.

In April, the EU granted Mauritania €210m (£177m; $225m) in aid – almost €60m of which will be invested in the fight against undocumented migration to Europe.

Hardliner faces reformist in Iran presidential run-off

By Tom BennettBBC News

Voting is under way to elect a new Iranian president as a hardline conservative goes head-to-head with a reformist.

The run-off comes after no candidate secured a majority in the first round of the election on 28 June, which saw a historically low voter turnout of 40%.

One of them Dr Massoud Pezeshkian, a former heart surgeon, is critical of Iran’s notorious morality police – but his rival Saeed Jalili favours the status quo.

The election was called after Iran’s previous president Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in May, in which seven others died.

Dr Pezeshkian has caused a stir after promising “unity and cohesion” and an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

He has called for “constructive negotiations” with Western powers over a renewal of the faltering 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for an easing of Western sanctions.

Mr Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator who enjoys strong support amongst Iran’s most religious communities, is known for his hardline anti-Western stance and opposition to restoring the nuclear deal, which he says crossed Iran’s “red lines”.

In order to stand, both candidates had to make it through a vetting process run by the Guardian Council, a body made up of 12 clerics and jurists that hold significant power in Iran.

That process saw 74 other candidates removed from the race, including several women.

The Guardian Council has previously been criticised by human rights groups for disqualifying candidates who are not loyal enough to the regime.

After years of civil unrest – culminating in anti-regime protests that shook the country in 2022-23 – many young and middle-class Iranians deeply mistrust the establishment and have previously refused to vote.

With turnout in the first round at its lowest since the 1979 Iranian revolution, voter apathy could be a deciding factor in the run-off.

On Iranian social media, the Persian hashtag “traitorous minority” has gone viral, urging people not to vote for either of the candidates and calling anyone who does so a “traitor”.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected suggestions that the low turnout represents a rejection of his rule.

“There are reasons [behind the low turnout] and politicians and sociologists will examine them, but if anyone thinks that those who did not vote are against the establishment, they are plainly wrong,” he said.

In a rare move, he acknowledged that some Iranians do not accept the current regime. “We listen to them and we know what they are saying and it is not like they are hidden and not seen,” Mr Khamenei said.

Within Iran, local media has encouraged people to cast ballots.

Reformist daily newspaper Sazandegi said “the future is tied to your votes” while the Hammihan newspaper said “now it’s your turn”.

Tehran municipality-run daily newspaper Hamshahri published a piece entitled “100 reasons for voting”, while the state broadcaster-run daily newspaper Jaam-e Jam said Iran was “awaiting the people”.

Preliminary election results are expected to be released by Saturday morning.

More on this story

Tanzanian artist who burned president’s picture jailed

By Wycliffe MuiaBBC News

A Tanzanian portrait artist, who was accused of burning a photo of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sentenced to two years in prison or a fine of $2,000 (£1,600) after being found guilty of cybercrimes.

Shadrack Chaula was arrested for allegedly recording a viral video, showing him burning a picture of President Hassan while verbally insulting her.

The 24-year-old painter admitted committing the crime and failed to defend his action in court.

His arrest sparked legal controversy, with some lawyers saying that no law was broken in burning the picture.

Some social media users have started an online drive to raise money to pay Chaula’s fine so he can be freed from jail.

In 2018, Tanzania enacted tough laws against the spread of “fake news”, which critics see as a way of curbing freedom of expression.

Police said Chaula used “strong words” against the president in the video he posted on his TikTok account on 30 June in Ntokela village, in the south-western city of Mbeya.

Local police chief Benjamin Kuzaga on Tuesday told journalists that the artist’s offences included burning the president’s portrait and disseminating offensive content online.

“It is not the culture of Mbeya people to insult our national leaders,” Mr Kuzaga said.

Some lawyers said there was no law that criminalises burning a picture of the president.

“Was the picture taken by a government photographer? Let them come out publicly and explain their impact on society and the nation. Who can show the law that burning a picture is an offence?” lawyer Philip Mwakilima told the Mwananchi newspaper.

But the act, which is deemed unethical in Tanzania, sparked public outrage.

On Thursday, magistrate Shamla Shehagilo found Chaula guilty of distributing videos on TikTok that contained false information in violation of the country’s cyber laws.

The court ruled that his actions constituted cyber-harassment and incitement.

Chaula remained silent when given the chance to defend himself against the charges, local media reported.

The prosecutor had urged the court to impose a harsh penalty on him in order to deter others from “disrespecting” the president.

The case has sparked a debate in the country with critics saying the sentence is too harsh and a reflection of the government’s crackdown on dissent.

President Hassan, who came to power in 2021, has introduced reforms that have opened up the political and civic spaces.

But the opposition and rights groups have expressed concerns that the country is sliding back to retrogressive policies.

More Tanzania stories from the BBC:

  • Why lifting Tanzania’s opposition ban suits President Samia
  • Zanzibar bans music star over ‘inappropriate’ show
  • World Bank suspends funding Tanzania tourism project

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Chris Mason: ‘Starmer tsunami’ as voters show ruthless drive to eject Tories

By Chris Mason@ChrisMasonBBCPolitical editor

This is a spectacular victory for Labour.

Spectacular given where they came from – the doldrums. Their result in 2019 was their worst since 1935.

But spectacular too by any metric, at any time, in any context, because the challenge they faced to win by a smidgen was Himalayan.

It’s “the Starmer tsunami” as one shellshocked opponent put it.

The story of this election is one of an electorate showing a ruthless determination to eject the Conservatives.

In plenty of places that meant electing a Labour MP. In a fair chunk of others it meant electing a Liberal Democrat MP. And there are a heck of a lot of votes for Reform UK.

This morning the brutality of campaigning yielded to the civility of its aftermath.

The victor and the defeated offering each other public warm words.

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak paid each other compliments, not criticisms, as they spoke outside 10 Downing Street.

To stand in Downing Street today, as I have done, was a privilege – to witness something actually quite rare in contemporary British history.

I am 44 – I was born in 1980 – and so what I saw today has only happened three times in my lifetime: the transference of power from Conservative to Labour, or Labour to Conservative.

It happened in 1997, it happened in 2010 and it’s happened again in 2024.

Garnishing the baked in choreography of the changing of the prime ministerial guard – the trips to Buckingham Palace, the still images of the prime ministers shaking hands with the monarch – was a splash of partisan stagecraft too.

Labour activists brandishing union flags, Welsh flags and the Saltire as the Starmers arrived – and so trying to project an image of a government for all of the UK.

The thrust of Keir Starmer’s message was to emphasise a desire for stability, in contrast to the chaos of recent years.

His huge majority may help deliver that, but doesn’t guarantee it.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Watch: The election night in 100 seconds
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

It was a night of a thousand stories.

Politics at its heart is about human beings, and their emotions: success, failure, jubilation, anguish, regret.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was a very high profile nocturnal casualty.

Arguably the outgoing government’s most able communicator, his voice cracking as he delivered his concession speech.

Jeremy Hunt hung on in Surrey, his voice cracking too as he spoke.

This was a night whose soundtrack was the post mortem beginning in the Conservative Party: from Robert Buckland, Mr Shapps, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and others.

There will be more of that to come.

But remember, unlike the circus of Conservative psychodrama in recent years, this will be a sideshow of a tussle – a battle within an opposition party, not a governing party.

It will still matter though because millions of people will want to ensure the new government, with a big majority, is properly scrutinised and held to account, and will want the Conservative Party to play a part in that.

Labour manifesto: What they plan to do in government

By the Visual Journalism teamBBC News

Labour has won a big majority in the general election. That means it should be able to pass the new laws it wants easily. But what are those likely to be?

During the election campaign, Labour released a manifesto – a list of pledges explaining to voters what it would do if elected.

Use our interactive guide below to find out what the party said it would do on key issues that interest you – whether that’s the economy, the environment or immigration.

Because of devolution, the UK parliament has limited powers over some of the issues highlighted in the guide. For example, health policy is devolved to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you want to find out what was promised by other parties around the UK during the election campaign, you can find out in our full manifesto guide.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Labour manifesto: 12 key policies analysed
  • Compare all the election manifestos and policies
  • Results tracker: Find out who won in your area
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Ukraine calls them meat assaults: Russia’s brutal plan to take ground

By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent, Kyiv

On the frontlines, Ukrainian soldiers use a graphic term to describe the Russian tactics they face daily.

They call them “meat assaults”: waves of Russian soldiers coming at their defensive positions, sometimes nearly a dozen times in a day.

Lt Col Anton Bayev of the Khartia Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard says wave after wave can arrive in just a few hours at front-line positions north of Kharkiv.

“The Russians use these units in most cases purely to see where our firing equipment is located, and to constantly exhaust our units,” he said.

“Our guys stand in positions and fight, and when four or five waves of the enemy come at you in a day, which you have to destroy without end, it is very difficult – not only physically, but also psychologically.”

This tactic has led to staggering Russian casualties since Moscow launched its latest offensive two months ago. Around 1,200 Russian soldiers were being killed or wounded every day in May and June, the highest rate since the beginning of the war, according to Western officials.

Those attacking are normally quickly spotted by drones above and the Russians leave their dead and wounded on the battlefield, Lt Col Bayev says. “Their main task is simply meat assaults and our total exhaustion.”

The tactic is a sign that Russia is seeking to make the most of its key advantage – numbers.

In Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region, Captain Ivan Sekach from Ukraine’s 110th Brigade compares what he sees to a conveyor belt bringing Russians to be killed, although still allowing them to push forward slowly.

Russia benefits from a significantly larger population than Ukraine. Some of those in the assaults are former prisoners, but Russia is also able to recruit through making one-off payments, sometimes thousands of dollars.

And there have been complaints from the Russian side about “crippled regiments”, in which wounded soldiers are forced back into fighting. One video shows dozens of men, some on crutches, appealing to their commanders because they say they are wounded and require hospital treatment, but instead are being sent back into combat.

All of this, Western officials say, means Moscow can keep throwing soldiers, even if poorly trained, straight on to the front lines at the same rate they are being killed or wounded.

Ukraine could not match the Russian tactics even if it had the numbers, partly due to a different attitude towards casualties. A senior general was removed in recent weeks after complaints he was using what are often called Soviet tactics – throwing people at the front lines.

“There are a lot of criticisms because we have lost a lot of our guys because of Soviet-type mindset and strategy,” says Ivan Stupak, a former Security Service officer. “We are limited with manpower. We have no other options than thinking of our people.”

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian advances have been stopped. But in the east, Russia’s attritional approach is making slow but steady advances.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of Russians. And they are trying to conduct this rolling operation centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, 100m per day, 200m per day. And unfortunately, it’s successful for them,” says Stupak.

There is frustration in Kyiv about the pace of Western support. One senior official complains they are receiving enough help to ensure they do not lose but not enough to make sure they win.

Western officials acknowledge 2024 has been a tough year for Ukraine, with delays in the arrival of US military aid creating a major strain on defences which has cost territory and lives.

“It seems like a so-called incremental approach,” Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of Ukraine’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the BBC.

“We receive little by little, and I get the impression that our Western allies give a little bit of weaponry, and they see what happens next, as if they’re afraid of what they refer to as escalation.”

The lifting of restrictions on using US weapons over the border into Russia has made a difference and helped stall Moscow’s assault on Kharkiv.

“If we have to fight with our hands tied behind our back, you know we’ll be only bleeding to death,” says Mr Merezhko. “That’s why it’s crucially important to be allowed to use long range missiles in the territory of Russia, and we already have results.”

But a Ukrainian official said the use of longer range strikes into Russia had only been a palliative and was not fundamentally altering the dynamic of the war.

“We are driving towards stalemate,” former security service officer Ivan Stupak says, acknowledging that this may lead eventually to the “bitter pill” of some form of negotiation.

During a visit to Kyiv this week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested a ceasefire first to hasten negotiations, a position that officials in Kyiv are wary of.

“We [are] not ready to go to the compromise for the very important things and values,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Zelensky, told reporters in Washington.

Ukrainians fear without hard security guarantees – such as Nato membership, rather than vague talk of a bridge to such status – Russia may simply regroup and attack again in the future.

Vladimir Putin is counting on wearing down Ukraine on the battlefield and outlasting the West’s resolve to provide support. As well as launching guided aerial bombs against frontline positions and civilians in Kharkiv, Moscow has also targeted energy infrastructure across the country, leading to increasingly frequent power blackouts and concerns over what winter might bring.

November’s US election adds another layer of uncertainty, along with a question mark as to whether the European Union could realistically pick up any slack.

For Lt Col Anton Bayev on the frontline near Kharkiv, the ability to strike into Russia may have been vital, but he now sees his enemy adapting its tactics – and not just with “meat assaults”.

His losses now come from mortars and glide bombs, while his Ukrainian forces remain short of ammunition.

“We need everything, and there is always a lack,” he says.

“The boys are holding on. We’re all hanging on. It’s hard, but everyone knows the price and why it’s all being done.”

No, UK weather is not being manipulated

By Simon KingBBC Weather@SimonOKing • Marco SilvaBBC Verify@BBCMarcoSilva

June’s weather may have felt erratic at times – but for some social media users, there was nothing random about it. They wrongly blamed it on “weather manipulation” and “geoengineering”. Others accused weather presenters of “hiding the truth” from the public.

Much of June experienced temperatures about 2C (3.6F) lower than average, due to colder air coming from the Arctic.

That was reversed in the last week of the month as warmer air moved in, bringing the UK temperature closer to normal, but still 0.4C colder than average.

Combined with one of the wettest winters in recent years, this has left many wondering what is going on with the British weather.

But not all possible explanations circulating on social media are grounded in scientific evidence.

To some users, the recent cooler weather suggests climate change may not be real. But short-term weather events are not representative of long-term climate trends in the UK.

And recent decades have also proved warmer, wetter, and sunnier than those in the 20th Century, as the climate continues to change.

But among those who deny the existence of climate change, an alternative theory has been gaining momentum. It alleges that the government is supposedly controlling both weather and climate for sinister purposes.

Variations of this narrative have been circulating online for years, but in the aftermath of unusual weather events it tends to resurface on all major social media platforms.

By using social media analytics tools, BBC Verify found that conversation around these topics has been gaining momentum this year.

Since January, mentions of #GeoEngineering on X more than doubled worldwide, compared with the last six months of 2023.

BBC Verify found thousands of tweets spreading falsehoods and conspiracy theories.

These claims often lump together processes that are largely different from each other, such as weather modification and geoengineering.

The most well-known form of weather modification is cloud seeding – a technique through which tiny particles are released into existing clouds to produce rain or snow.

Cloud seeding has been around for decades, and has been deployed in places like the US, China and the United Arab Emirates, mostly to help tackle water shortages.

On social media, some users have claimed that high levels of rainfall across the UK could only be explained by the deployment of cloud seeding on an industrial scale.

This is false.

On a rapidly warming planet, warm air is able to hold more moisture, which in turn fuels more intense rainfall.

Climate change may not be the only factor behind the UK’s waterlogged winter, but it has certainly played an important role in it.

While the UK government funded cloud seeding experiments in the 1950s, the Met Office says it is not aware of any activity connected to weather modification taking place in the UK in recent years.

In addition to that, cloud seeding can only have small, targeted impacts. It does not affect long-term weather or the climate.

That is where the idea of geoengineering comes in.

Geoengineering is an umbrella term most commonly used to describe attempts to manipulate the environment, with the goal of reducing the effects of climate change.

Under current climate policies, the Earth is likely to heat up by more than 1.5C in the next few decades, breaching a key climate threshold.

As the clock ticks away, some scientists believe governments should be looking into alternative methods of cooling the Earth.

This could involve capturing and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – something the UK is actively researching.

But there is no evidence to suggest that removing gases like carbon dioxide has any impact on short-term weather.

Cooling the Earth could also be achieved through solar radiation management – a process through which some of the Sun’s energy that reaches Earth is reflected back into space.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero says the UK government is “not deploying solar radiation management” and that it has “no plans to do so”.

And yet, some social media users claim, without evidence, that a cover-up is taking place – one in which BBC Weather and other forecasters are playing a key role (or so those users allege).

“Imagine watching the geoengineers at work, and you report the weather without telling the truth about what really is going on,” wrote one user on X. “That is sick!”

Many of these users were also found to frequently tweet about “chemtrails”, a widely debunked conspiracy theory about a secretive plot to spray people with dangerous chemicals.

The Royal Meteorological Society condemns the abuse weather forecasters have been receiving – which, it says, can have chilling effects.

“We work very closely with young scientists to encourage them to share their science with the public,” says Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society. “But they are fearful of the trolling that might take place.”

Others argue that it may also affect research into geoengineering, as potential donors may be reluctant to put their money into projects the public may perceive as “controversial”.

“A lot of funders are very sceptical of funding research,” says Dr Ramit Debnath, an assistant professor at the University of Cambridge, who investigated how online conversations about geoengineering have been hijacked by conspiracy theories.

“It’s this whole idea that someone is trying to control our natural resources, our environment – and that, through that intervention, we are trying to control or take away people’s freedom,” he says.

Jill Biden: The quiet influence of Biden’s closest adviser

By Rachel LookerBBC News, Washington

A day after US President Joe Biden struggled through a 90-minute debate that only served to fuel voter concerns about his age and fitness, Jill Biden stood before well-heeled donors at a New York fundraiser and tried to explain what they had all witnessed.

“‘You know, Jill, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel that great,'” the president had confessed, she told them. “I said, ‘Look, Joe, we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president.’”

It offered an early glimpse into the president’s mindset and how he rated his debate performance, which was widely panned as a major blow to his campaign.

As doubts about Mr Biden’s candidacy began to circulate, his closest adviser was unequivocal about whether he would step out of the race. “When he gets knocked down, Joe gets back up, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Mrs Biden said.

The first lady has stood beside her husband throughout his decades-long career, from his time as a Delaware senator to becoming commander-in-chief, often serving as the decisive voice behind many of Mr Biden’s political choices.

While the president often turns to his tight-knit family on big decisions, Mrs Biden is among a handful of top advisers who wield the most influence over the president and could ultimately help him determine whether it is time to step out of the race.

“It’s fair to call her Biden’s closest adviser,” veteran Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkop told the BBC. “Family matters to him significantly and that makes Jill Biden’s role even more important.”

The president’s younger sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who served as his campaign manager during his years in the Senate, as well as his son, Hunter Biden, are also among his most trusted confidantes.

After the fallout from the debate, Mr Biden huddled with his family for a long-planned trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, where they discussed the fate of his campaign and urged him to keep fighting, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS. Hunter Biden was among the most vocal family members urging his father to remain in the race, CBS reported.

But as Democratic anxiety over the 81-year-old president’s physical and mental stamina has spilled into public view in recent days, many inside the party have looked to the first lady for any hint of wavering over his candidacy.

Instead, she has continued to hit the campaign trail, travelling to the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Michigan this week for a string of political and official events.

“Because there’s a lot of talk out there, let me repeat what my husband has said plainly and clearly: Joe is the Democratic nominee and he is going to beat Donald Trump, just like he did in 2020,” Mrs Biden told supporters at a campaign event in Traverse City, Michigan, on Wednesday.

Mrs Biden’s influence in the West Wing, however, is not unusual.

Nancy Kegan Smith, president of the First Ladies Association for Research and Education, said there are historic parallels between Mrs Biden and former first ladies.

“Most presidents depend on the uncoloured advice of their wives because that’s the person who is normally closest to them,” she said.

She pointed to Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of former President Lyndon B Johnson, who advised her husband – ultimately convincing him with a moving letter – to run for the White House in August 1964 after he became president following the assassination of John F Kennedy.

Four years later in 1968, she changed her opinion, telling him to not run for re-election. He listened, Ms Kegan Smith said.

Many in the Democratic Party are waiting to see if a similar scenario may unfold in the next month, placing a greater spotlight on Mrs Biden.

The first lady keeps a busy schedule. She is the first in the East Wing to keep a day job teaching English at a northern Virginia community college. When she is not teaching, she is often on the road campaigning for her husband.

“Most modern first ladies have been in the political game for quite a while and have been political sounding boards to their husbands,” Katherine Jellison, an Ohio University professor who studies first ladies, told BBC News.

The president proposed five times before Mrs Biden said yes, and the couple married in 1977, five years after Mr Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a car crash that also injured his two sons.

When he decided not to run for president in 2016, he told 60 Minutes “it was the right decision for the family”. He cited his reasoning was in part because of the loss of his son, Beau, who died from brain cancer in 2015.

Mrs Biden specifically played a role in her husband’s decision not to run for president in 2003, Ms Kegan Smith said, pointing to a scene described in the first lady’s 2019 memoir, Where the Light Enters. In the book, she recalled lounging by the pool as Democratic advisers inside encouraged her husband to launch a campaign. Wearing a bikini, she wrote “no” on her stomach in magic marker and walked through the meeting. Biden did not enter the race that year.

But the first lady has also come under pressure in recent days, facing criticism after the presidential debate for praising her husband after his poor showing on the debate stage.

“Joe, you did such a great job. You answered every question. You knew all the facts,” she told him on stage at a post-debate rally in Atlanta. A clip of the exchange was widely mocked on social media.

Some Republicans have also seized on Democratic worry, laying blame on the first lady for Mr Biden’s debate performance. Representative Harriet Hageman, a Republican from Wyoming, even accused Mrs Biden of “elder abuse” in a post on X, for “rolling him out on stage to engage in a battle of wits while unarmed”.

The Drudge Report, a conservative website, ran a headline on its front page immediately after the debate that read: “Cruel Jill clings to power.”

“It’s really unfair to put the burden on her. She’s his spouse. She’s not a politician,” Michael LaRosa, her former press secretary, told The Hill. “It’s not up to her to save the Democratic Party.”

Mrs Biden, meanwhile, has stressed that the president’s bid for re-election will continue as the stakes in November are high.

“Every campaign is important, and every campaign is hard,” the first lady told Vogue for their August cover story. “Each campaign is unique. But this one, the urgency is different. We know what’s at stake. Joe is asking the American people to come together to draw a line in the sand against all this vitriol.”

That urgency is something the campaign is hoping she’ll be able to convey to voters. In a statement to the BBC, the Biden campaign called Mrs Biden an “effective messenger” on the campaign trail.

“As a teacher, mom, and grandmother, she’s uniquely positioned to connect with key constituencies across the country and speak to the president’s vision for America,” the statement said.

Still, her steadfast support combined with White House dismissals of media reports that the president is weighing his exit have yet to tamp down growing uncertainty about the Democratic ticket. The fallout has triggered a backlash of Democrats, donors and some lawmakers publicly calling for the president’s withdrawal from the race.

“Joe has been knocked down and counted out his whole life… When he gets counted out, he works harder. And that’s what he’s doing, but he needs your help,” she told Michigan supporters on Wednesday.

“We don’t choose our chapter of history, but we can choose who leads us through it,” she added.

For Mrs Biden, that choice remains her husband.

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Amazon at 30: What next for ‘The Everything Company’?

By Tom SingletonTechnology reporter

Three decades on from the day it began, it is hard to get your head around the scale of Amazon.

Consider its vast warehouse in Dartford, on the outskirts of London. It has millions of stock items, with hundreds of thousands of them bought every day – and it takes two hours from the moment something is ordered, the company says, for it to be picked, packed and sent on its way.

Now, picture that scene and multiply it by 175. That’s the number of “fulfilment centres”, as Amazon likes to call them, that it has around the world.

Even if you think you can visualise that never-ending blur of parcels crisscrossing the globe, you need to remember something else: that’s just a fraction of what Amazon does.

It is also a major streamer and media company (Amazon Prime Video); a market leader in home camera systems (Ring) and smart speakers (Alexa) and tablets and e-readers (Kindle); it hosts and supports vast swathes of the internet (Amazon Web Services); and much more besides.

“For a long time it has been called ‘The Everything Store’, but I think, at this point, Amazon is sort of ‘The Everything Company’,” Bloomberg’s Amanda Mull tells me.

“It’s so large and so omnipresent and touches so many different parts of life, that after a while, people sort of take Amazon’s existence in all kinds of elements of daily life sort of as a given,” she says.

Or, as the company itself once joked, pretty much the only way you could get though a day without enriching Amazon in some way was by “living in a cave”.

So the story of Amazon, since it was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, has been one of explosive growth, and continual reinvention.

There has been plenty of criticism along the way too, over “severe” working conditions and how much tax it pays.

But the main question as it enters its fourth decade appears to be: once you are The Everything Company, what do you do next?

Or as Sucharita Kodali, who analyses Amazon for research firm Forrester, puts it: “What the heck is left?”

“Once you’re at a half a trillion dollars in revenue, which they already are, how do you continue to grow at double digits year over year?”

One option is to try to tie the threads between existing businesses: the vast amounts of shopping data Amazon has for its Prime members might help it sell adverts on its streaming service, which – like its rivals – is increasingly turning to commercials for revenue.

But that only goes so far – what benefits can Kuiper, its satellite division, bring to Whole Foods, its supermarket chain?

To some extent, says Sucharita Kodali, the answer is to “keep taking swings” at new business ventures, and not worry if they fall flat.

Just this week Amazon killed a business robot line after only nine months – Ms Kodali says that it is just one of a “whole graveyard of bad ideas” the company tried and discarded in order to find the successful ones.

But, she says, Amazon may also have to focus on something else: the increasing attention of regulators, asking difficult questions like what does it do with our data, what environmental impact is it having, and is it simply too big?

All of these issues could prompt intervention “in the same way that we rolled back the monopolies that became behemoths in the early 20th century”, Ms Kodali says.

For Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of e-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse, its size poses another problem: the places its Western customers live in simply can not take much more stuff.

“Our cities were not built for many more deliveries,” he tells the BBC.

That makes emerging economies like India, Mexico and Brazil important. But, Mr Kaziukėnas, suggests, there Amazon does not just need to enter the market but to some extent to make it.

“It’s crazy and maybe should not be the case – but that’s a conversation for another day,” he says.

Amanda Mull points to another priority for Amazon in the years ahead: staving off competition from Chinese rivals like Temu and Shein.

Amazon, she says, has “created the spending habits” of western consumers by acting as a trusted intermediary between them and Chinese manufacturers, and bolting on to that easy returns and lightening fast delivery.

But remove that last element of the deal and you can bring prices down, as the Chinese retailers have done.

“They have said ‘well, if you wait a week or 10 days for something that you’re just buying on a lark, we can give it to you for almost nothing,'” says Ms Mull – a proposition that is appealing to many people, especially during a cost of living crisis.

Juozas Kaziukėnas is not so sure – suggesting the new retailers will remain “niche”, and it will take something much more fundamental to challenge Amazon’s position.

“For as long as going shopping involves going to a search bar – Amazon has nailed that,” he says.

Thirty years ago a fledging company spotted emerging trends around internet use and realised how it could upend first retail, then much else besides.

Mr Kaziukėnas says for that to happen again will take a similar leap of imagination, perhaps around AI.

“The only threat to Amazon is something that doesn’t look like Amazon,” he says.

Victoria Starmer: Who is the new PM’s wife?

By Kate WhannelPolitical reporter

Throughout the general election campaign and much of her husband’s tenure as Labour leader, Victoria Starmer has kept a low profile.

Apart from appearances at Labour conferences, the odd state banquet and a Taylor Swift concert, Lady Starmer, nee Victoria Alexander, has sought to avoid public appearances

Asked on LBC about his wife’s low profile, Sir Keir pointed out that she had a full-time job at an NHS hospital and that their eldest child was doing his GCSEs.

“We took the decision that whilst I was out and about on the road, we wanted to create the environment where he could study calmly in ordinary circumstances.”

However, now that Sir Keir has won the election and become prime minister, Lady Starmer may find it trickier to shun the spotlight.

When she first met Sir Keir in the early 2000s, he wasn’t a politician but a barrister. She was a solicitor working on the same case.

Sir Keir told ITV’s Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, of their first meeting: “I was doing a case in court and it all depended on whether the documents were accurate.

“I [asked the team] who actually drew up these documents, they said a woman called Victoria, so I said ‘let’s get her on the line.'”

He grilled her forensically on the paper but as he hung up he heard one comment from her.

“She said, ‘who the bleep does he think he is’, then put the phone down on me,” Sir Keir said. “And quite right too.”

Despite the rocky beginnings, the relationship blossomed after a first date in the Lord Stanley pub in Camden, north London.

Speaking to his biographer Tom Baldwin, Sir Keir described her as “grounded, sassy, funny, streetwise – and utterly gorgeous too”.

He proposed just a few months later on a holiday in Greece.

“Won’t we need a ring, Keir?” was her down-to-earth response.

They were married in 2007 at the Fennes estate in Essex, walking down the aisle to one of Sir Keir’s favourite pieces of music – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5, 2nd movement.

He later described her to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs as an “incredibly warm, wonderful woman. My complete rock”.

The couple have two teenage children – but have been at pains to keep them out of the limelight – making a point of not naming them in public.

Lady Starmer grew up in north London, not far from where she currently lives with her family.

She attended Channing School before studying law and sociology at Cardiff University.

While there, she got involved in student politics, becoming president of the student union in 1994.

In an interview with the student newspaper Gair Rhydd, she said her main priority was to campaign against cuts to student grants.

Rob Watkins was at Cardiff University at the same time and worked as a photographer for the paper.

He remembers the future Lady Starmer as being “witty and professional, clearly dedicated to her work” and aware of her responsibility to the people she represented.

Lady Starmer currently works in occupational health for the NHS – something her husband has frequently referred to during his time as Labour leader.

He says it gives him insight into the problems faced by the health service.

Speaking to the Times in May, Sir Keir said his wife intended to keep her job if he won the election.

“She’s absolutely going to carry on working, she wants to and she loves it.”

While the couple say they want to keep life as normal as possible for their children, their domestic life has already been disrupted by Sir Keir’s job.

In April, pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a protest outside their home, hanging a banner outside their house and laying children’s shoes outside the front door.

Lady Starmer had returned from a shopping trip with her son when she saw the protesters.

Asked how the protest made her feel, Lady Starmer said: “I felt a bit sick, to be perfectly honest.”

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Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

It’s taken until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Up until last month, people were still asked to submit documents to the government using the outdated storage devices, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring their use.

But these rules have now finally been scrapped, said Digital Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr Kono had “declared war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the war on floppy disks!”

Mr Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job. He had earlier also said he would “get rid of the fax machine”.

Once seen as a tech powerhouse, Japan has in recent years lagged in the global wave of digital transformation because of a deep resistance to change.

For instance, workplaces have continued to favour fax machines over emails – earlier plans to remove these machines from government offices were scrapped because of pushback.

The announcement was widely-discussed on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of an anachronistic administration”.

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so outdated… I guess they’re just full of old people,” read another comment on X.

Others comments were more nostalgic. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

Created in the 1960s, the square-shaped devices fell out of fashion in the 1990s as more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half inch floppy disk could accommodate up to just 1.44MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the disks, ended its production in 2011.

As part of its belated campaign to digitise its bureaucracy, Japan launched a Digital Agency in September 2021, which Mr Kono leads.

But Japan’s efforts to digitise may be easier said than done.

Many Japan businesses still require official documents to be endorsed using carved personal stamps called hanko, despite the government’s efforts to phase them out.

People are moving away from those stamps at a “glacial pace”, said local newspaper The Japan Times.

And it was not until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider closed its service, with the final private subscriber explaining that it was the preferred method of communication for his elderly mother.

Kris Jenner shares plans for removal of her ovaries

By Bonnie McLarenCulture reporter

US reality TV star Kris Jenner has spoken emotionally about plans to have her ovaries removed.

In scenes during reality show The Kardashians, the US media personality and businesswoman revealed she was set to have the procedure after doctors found a cyst and a tumour.

While on holiday in Aspen, Colorado with partner Corey Gamble, Jenner broke the news to her daughters, Kendall, Kim and Khloé Kardashian.

“I wanted to tell you guys something because I hadn’t told you yet, but I went to the doctor and I had my scan,” she said.

“And this just makes me really emotional, but… they found a cyst and like a little tumour on my ovary.

“So I went to the doctor, and Dr A said I have to have my ovaries taken out. And I’m just really emotional about it because they came in handy with you guys.

“It’s also a thing about getting older,” she added.

“It’s a sign of ‘we’re done with this part of your life.’ It’s a whole chapter that’s just closed.”

Jenner has six children. Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian, from her marriage to the late Robert Kardashian. She also has Kendall and Kylie Jenner, from her marriage to Caitlyn Jenner.

Kris Jenner added that her biggest achievement was raising her family.

“People often ask me what is the best job you’ve ever had, and I always say mom,” she said.

“The biggest blessing in my life was being able to give birth to six beautiful kids.”

Daughters’ support

Speaking to the camera, Kim Kardashian empathised with why her mother was upset.

“To have a surgery and remove your ovaries is a really big deal,” she said.

“I feel really sad for her. I couldn’t even imagine being in that situation and how you would feel really scared to be going through that.”

Kourtney also agreed, saying she “would feel the same way”. “It’s like your womanly power,” she added.

“It doesn’t mean it’s taking away who she is or what she’s experienced, but I would feel this sentimental feeling of what it’s created.”

Kendall added: “I get that it’s sad because they [her ovaries] have brought all her kids into the world, which is totally fair.

“But at the same time, what are we going to use those for anymore? If they’re potentially hurting you, let’s get them out of there.”

Flames, chains and grains: Africa’s top shots

A selection of the week’s best photos from across the African continent:

On the eve of Mauritania’s presidential election, a man arrives at the Grand Mosque in Nouakchott for Friday prayers…

Days later supporters of the incumbent president celebrate his re-election. The runner-up, an anti-slavery campaigner, alleges that the vote was stolen.

On Saturday, Ayra Starr becomes the first Afrobeats artist to perform on the Pyramid stage at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival…

Followed the next day by fellow Nigerian star Burna Boy.

Also on Sunday, South African singer Tyla appears at the BET awards in the US and takes home two trophies – for best Best New Artist and Best International Act.

Angola’s Silvio de Sousa and Spain’s Willy Hernangomez vie for the ball during an Olympic basketball qualifier on Wednesday.

Eritrean cyclist Biniam Girmay takes in the moment after winning the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday. He becomes the first black African competitor to win one of the 21 stages in this yearly feat of endurance.

Fishermen bring their catch to shore in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Saturday.

The next day, Nigerian golfer Georgia Oboh lines up her putt at the Dow Championship in the US.

Protests continue in Kenya on Tuesday even though an unpopular draft law to raise tax is dropped…

Young people have been at the forefront of these demonstrations in cities and towns across the country.

And on Friday in the Tunisian town of Nabeul, a woman spreads couscous out to dry in the sun.

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Could the ‘flying piano’ help transform air cargo?

By Michael DempseyTechnology Reporter

US start-up Aerolane is seeking the secret to airborne surfing.

Geese already know how to do it. When you see them flying in a v-formation, they are surfing on the air currents created by formation members ahead and around them.

At an airfield in Texas, Todd Graetz is hoping to use that concept to disrupt the market for air cargo.

Aerolane has been mimicking the tricks used by migrating birds, aided by modified planes towed into the air by another aircraft.

Smoke released from the leading plane allowed cameras installed in the towed aircraft to capture vortices in the air that a glider can exploit to stay aloft.

Their latest test aircraft is known as the “flying piano” because of its poor gliding characteristics.

Its twin engines idle for electrical power while it glides along with propellers turning for purely aerodynamic purposes.

Other tests have measured the tension in the towing line.

They spotted when the line went slack, indicating the glider is surfing along on currents generated by the aircraft ahead.

Aerolane’s plan is to feed all this data into a program that will guide an unmanned cargo plane through wakes and turbulence to exploit the possibilities of gliding long distances without burning fuel.

One or more such cargo planes could be towed by a jet, also carrying cargo, to their destination where they would land autonomously.

The only fuel costs would come from supplying the towing aircraft’s engines.

In theory this should work like a truck pulling a trailer, with air currents doing much of the heavy lifting. This is what Mr Graetz calls “a combination of gliding and surfing”.

The same idea occurred to Airbus, which tested the technique in 2021 with two A350 airliners flying 3km (1.9 miles) apart across the Atlantic.

Although the aircraft were not connected by a tow line, the experiment saw one aircraft winning an uplift from the lead A350’s wake to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel burn.

Mr Graetz, a pilot with 12 years’ experience, founded Aerolane with Gur Kimchi, a veteran of Amazon’s drone delivery project, on the basis that “there has got to be a better way to get more out of existing aircraft”.

The project has raised eyebrows among experienced pilots. Flying large gliders in commercial airspace means meeting strict flight safety regulations.

For instance, the towing aircraft has to be confident it can release the tow line at any point in the flight, safe in the knowledge that the auto-piloted glider can make it down to a runway without dropping on top of the local population.

Aerolane says a small electric motor driving a propeller will act as a safety net on their cargo gliders, giving them enough juice to go around again if a landing looks wrong or to divert to another location close by.

Mr Graetz counters that Aerolane employs active commercial pilots who are hard-headed about the practicalities of the project.

“We’ve engaged outside advisors to be devil’s advocates,” he adds.

He says big freight businesses are interested in anything that allows them to cut the cost per delivery.

On top of the cost of fuel, air freight firms also have to think about jet engine emissions and a shortage of pilots.

James Earl, a former RAF helicopter pilot and aviation consultant, thinks Mr Graetz may just be onto something.

“It stands to reason that gains can be had by slipstreaming and combining efforts in the sky. And any innovation in the cargo space is good.”

However, he cautions that public acceptance of unpowered cargo flights over built-up areas is another thing entirely.

“It should have a good gliding range to get to a landing spot in the event of a major failure by the tow plane. Whether that can be effectively communicated to the public is another matter though.”

Regulators are likely to be cautious as well, particularly in the US, where the Federal Aviation Authority is under pressure after serious problems with Boeing aircraft.

Mr Graetz replies that his team has complied with every request from the FAA so far. “The FAA has always been super risk averse. That’s their business!”

Fred Lopez spent 36 years in aviation operations at cargo giant UPS. As he says, he’s put “my entire adult life” into working out the most cost-effective way to operate an air freight business.

Mr Lopez admits he was profoundly sceptical about cargo gliders when Aerolane first approached him. But the prospect of serious fuel savings won him over and now he sits on their advisory board.

Cutting fuel costs is an obsession in civil aviation. When the upturned wing-tips we see out of a cabin window became a standard design feature airlines cut fuel costs by around 5%.

But gliders only consume the fuel required by their tow plane. If that too is a cargo aircraft, a pair of gliders drawn by one jet represents a significant reduction in fuel consumption on a large shipment.

The initial Aerolane design uses their autopilot plus what Mr Lopez terms a human “safety pilot”. This should make certification from the FAA easier.

“Aerolane is not trying to change everything at one go” he says.

Their ultimate goal is autonomous operation using AI, or as Mr Lopez puts it “to pull the pilot out of the seat”.

And, if the flying piano can surf, then who knows what’s possible?

More Technology of Business

UK election: What’s happened and what comes next?

By Matt Murphy & Graeme BakerBBC News, in London & Washington DC

Sir Keir Starmer is the UK’s new prime minister, after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide general election victory.

The Conservative Party suffered a dramatic collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country. It lost 250 seats over the course of a devastating night.

Rishi Sunak – the outgoing PM – accepted responsibility for the result and apologised to defeated colleagues during a brief statement outside a rainy 10 Downing Street. He said he would resign as party leader in the coming weeks.

In his first speech as prime minister after greeting dozens of jubilant Labour supporters who had lined Downing Street, Sir Keir vowed to run a “government of service” and to kick start a period of “national renewal”.

“For too long we’ve turned a blind eye as millions slid into greater insecurity,” he said. “I want to say very clearly to those people. Not this time.”

“Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while, but have no doubt the work of change will begin immediately.”

The result marks a stunning reversal from the 2019 election when Labour, led by the veteran left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn, suffered its worst electoral defeat in almost a century.

On the other side, Robert Buckland, a former Conservative minister who lost his seat, described it as “electoral Armageddon” for the Tories.

It is the party’s worst result in almost 200 years, with an ideological battle over its future direction expected ahead.

It’s been a long night of results. Here’s what it all means.

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A huge Labour victory

Britain’s House of Commons has 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of their “seats” represents a constituency, or district.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 121 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as is the left-wing Green Party.

Labour’s surge was partly aided by the collapse of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party has been hit by a succession of controversies around its finances and fell to just nine seats overnight.

The expected 170-seat majority in the House of Commons for Labour is an enormous number but still short of the majority of 179 won by the party under Tony Blair in the 1997 election.

But for more perspective, the Conservatives’ win in the 2019 election under Boris Johnson – seen as a very strong performance – saw them get a majority of 80 seats.

A reminder: If a party holds a majority, it means it doesn’t need to rely on other parties to pass laws. The bigger the majority, the easier it is.

There were, however, a number of notable defeats for Labour to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza tickets – especially in areas with large Muslim populations.

Labour has faced growing pressure over its stance to the conflict. In February, the party called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire but critics said it was too slow to reach that position.

Centre-left parties in other Western countries were keeping a keen eye on the trend ahead of the poll, amid fear of a growing backlash from their own voters over their support for Israel.

Big names fall one by one (but some survive)

As constituencies have declared their results live on television – with all candidates lined up next to each other on stage – there were some major moments.

Perhaps the most notable was the defeat of Liz Truss. The former prime minister served just 49 days in Number 10 before being ousted by her party. She narrowly lost to Labour in the constituency of South West Norfolk, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Conservative business secretary and arch-Brexiteer, was another of the biggest names to suffer defeat. He lost his East Somerset and Hanham seat to Labour.

He told the BBC that he couldn’t “blame anybody other than myself” for the loss but he took a “small silver lining” from the fact that the Conservatives would be “at least the official opposition” – a reference to fears they wouldn’t even have that.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, looked rattled after losing his seat in southern England.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, who ran against Rishi Sunak for the party leadership before he became prime minister, lost her seat in Portsmouth.

As the night wore on, a succession of other Conservative cabinet ministers also lost their seats, including Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

  • Truss and Rees-Mogg among big-name Tory losses
  • The dramatic Tory decline behind Labour’s landslide
  • Key moments from a dramatic election night

But Jeremy Hunt, who served as chancellor – the UK equivalent of a finance minister – held on to his seat but with a much-reduced majority.

Mr Sunak also won his seat in Yorkshire with a comfortable majority of about 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour lost two big names of their own. Jonathan Ashworth and Thangam Debbonaire were both expected to be a part of Keir Starmer’s incoming cabinet.

A new PM within a day

Things move pretty fast in British politics – there is very little time between an election result and the installation of the new prime minister.

By mid-morning moving vans had arrived to help Rishi Sunak out of 10 Downing Street. He was then whisked away to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to King Charles III.

Then, just 14 hours after the initial exit poll dropped, Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government.

Moments later – watched by the world’s media – he walked up Downing Street and addressed the nation for the first time as prime minster.

He has already started appointing a new cabinet.

Angela Rayner has been made deputy prime minister, while Rachel Reeves has become the first female chancellor.

Meanwhile David Lammy is the new foreign secretary with Yvette Cooper as home secretary.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished the new PM well.

“His successes will be all our successes, and I wish him and his family well,” Mr Sunak said. “Whatever our disagreements in this campaign, he is a decent public spirited man who I respect.”

So who is Keir Starmer?

He’s fairly new to politics, relatively speaking.

Sir Keir started his professional life as a barrister in the 1990s, and was appointed the director of public prosecutions, the most senior criminal prosecutor in England and Wales, in 2008.

He was first elected in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency in north London in 2015, and took over leadership of Labour after the party’s poor 2019 general election, pledging to start a “new era” after the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir was re-elected in the same constituency on Thursday, saying in his victory speech people were “ready for change” and promising an “end the politics of performance”.

“The change begins right here because this is your democracy, your community, your future,” he said. “You have voted. It’s now time for us to deliver.”

The Labour leader largely avoided making big pledges during the campaign.

But during his address outside Downing Street, Sir Keir said his government would strive to “rebuild” British public services such as the NHS, slash energy bills and secure the country’s border.

“You have given us a clear mandate, and we will use it to deliver change,” he vowed.

You can read Sir Keir’s full profile here.

Nigel Farage finally becomes an MP

This election’s insurgent party was Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party.

Nigel Farage, its leader, finally won a seat on his eighth attempt – but his party’s initial projection of 13 seats fizzled to four. That’s still better than UKIP and the Brexit Party ever did, and Mr Farage has been celebrating.

The party’s share of the vote looks to be about 14%.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists.

Mr Farage will be joined in the House of Commons by former Conservative party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, Reform founder Richard Tice and Rupert Lowe.

From their new perch in parliament, the party could seek to cause trouble for the Conservatives and pick off more voters from the party’s remaining base.

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